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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Arranged by Leopold KOZELUCH (1747-1818)
Wilt Thou Be My Dearie - and other Scottish Songs

Wilt thou be my dearie [2.10]; The gloomy night [6.56]; Ye banks and braes and streams [6.16]; On a bank of flowers [2.38]; O Poortith cauld and restless love [6.20]; Whar hae ye been a’day [3.04]; Now spring has clad [4.57]; I’ve seen the smiling fortune [4.22]; O were I on Parnassus hill [3.23]; When merry hearts were gay [8.08]; Ye banks and braes of bonny doon [2.29]; Adieu ye Streams [3.30]; O saw ye bonnie Lesley [1.46]; Nae gentle dames [3.25]; True hearted was the sad swain [2.27]; Duncan Gray came her to woo [3.04]; O love will venture in [5.21]; Turn again thou fair Eliza [4.36]; Gone is my heart, for ever gone [3.48]
Henk Lauwers (baritone)
Diane Anderson (pianoforte)
rec. 2002 (no other details supplied). DDD
TALENT DOM 2910 76 [78.55]



 


Mr George Thomson (1757-1851) of Edinburgh has an important niche in musical history. His claim is down to a long term project he devised between 1791 and 1841. You could try this one out with musical friends in a quiz for the erudite. I expect that it will stump them. Let me put you out of your misery. He it was who came up with the idea of asking several leading composers of the era to arrange Scottish, Irish and Welsh folksongs for voice and piano or for voice with a trio. These were, after all, good tunes which might have disappeared unless given a helping hand into fame. And what a collection of composers heeded the call: Josef Haydn, Ignaz Pleyel and Beethoven whose arrangements are perhaps the best known. There were also Weber, Hummel and the Englishman, Henry Bishop. In addition we have Leopold Kozeluch. Beethoven, like Kozeluch, set texts such as ‘Duncan Grey’ and ‘Ye banks and ye braes’ and the comparison is sobering. Kozeluch made these arrangements circa 1795 in the style of the classical period; perhaps Haydn is his model. Beethoven, in the last years of his life, kicked over the traces even his folksong arrangements and struck out boldly into the world of what we now call Early Romanticism.

If you have heard of Kozeluch before it may be as one of the flourishing Bohemian school who aided the development of the Symphony. He also wrote five piano concertos, chamber music and several operas whilst living in Vienna as a piano virtuoso. He was then, a significant figure in European music although his work now is almost totally obscured. His tally in this particular genre comes to no less than 110 Scottish folksong arrangements. In large part these draw the lyrics from Robbie Burns and from one or two minor figures of the period. The texts are occupied with the subjects of lost love or new love or nationalist themes, the beauty of Scotland, its mountains or islands.

That the music as aimed at the domestic, middle-class, amateur market is obvious although I suspect that, with the Beethoven arrangements, the instrumentalists must have had quite a shock. In the case of Kozeluch these arrangements are all straightforward. Each piece has a piano introduction and sections between the verses. The left-hand part tends to be written either as an Alberti bass or as broken chords. The voice part is almost always doubled by the right-hand of the piano and could I suppose, be successful even without the voice. The harmonies are simple and founded on basic triadic formations.

The booklet gives us a brief essay and all of the nineteen texts … thank goodness, I cry. The Dutch baritone Henk Lauwers, now in his early fifties, has a fine voice. Reading his biography in the booklet we find that he has an excellent CV as an international performer, including in his extensive repertoire ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ (Maxwell-Davies – now that would be interesting). However his diction is very poor. This, coupled with the Scottish ‘brogue’ demanded by the poetry, makes it impossible for the listener to understand most of the words. It’s not just that words are mispronounced it’s also that vowels can be distorted and consonants are quite often inaudible. Even with the texts in front of me I sometimes couldn’t quite make out where I was. Friends who heard a few tracks felt exactly the same and after, say three songs, could not handle any more.

The fortepiano used for this recording is an attractive instrument after a Schott model of 1830. It delivers quite a warm sound which suits the music, although by the time we come to the last two tracks it seems to be losing its tuning. Diane Anderson is a very sensitive player and persuades it into a warm legato line.

You will have gathered that I cannot recommend this disc unless this is repertoire in which you have a special interest. In a medium where the texts are vital these performances fail to match expectations. Furthermore although the melodies are fresh and delightful the arrangements themselves are often rather second-rate.

Gary Higginson

 


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